Kigali, June 15, 2013
How are you?
First of all, I must express my pleasure of sharing this moment with you. I must also thank you for coming in big numbers to share in this experience that concerns our culture and the bringing up of our families that we, as parents, want to impart on you.
I wish to also thank the organizers of this event, including the Ministries of Education, Local Government, Youth and Culture, and all the people who were involved in the preparation of this activity. Collaboration is among the pillars of our culture that we wish to impart on you as our youth.
All of us, as we are here, share one country. We as a people have aspirations. We wish to attain a good level of development, enjoy the welfare we deserve. Each of us in our unique way; wherever we may hail from; however different we may be; we have something in common.
However different in age, we share the desire to lead a healthy, fulfilling life. Is there anyone, here or elsewhere, who does not wish to better his/her life, to develop? Even a criminal who destroys life and property, wherever they may be, will tell you they wish to develop. They might even tell you that by getting involved in crime, they hoped to better their individual lives.
It is important to understand this well and that’s why we give emphasis to the youth. To understand life, we also started as the youth. That’s the foundation of understanding. We want everybody, from birth to old age, to lead a fulfilling life. When we say we are in a struggle to fight child mortality, maternal mortality, malnutrition, lack of education and others, it means we are fighting problems that hinder our efforts to improve our lives.
However, good living alone is not enough. You are born and are in good health; you grow up well; you are intelligent; you are strong and so on; would you say all that is enough? The intelligence you were born with; or the fact that you were born healthy; are they enough?
They are not enough because all the above need to be maintained for each individual to contribute in maintaining the wellbeing of our society. When we talk about the Rwandan society, we mean each Rwandan; together we form the Rwandan society.
Therefore, our state of being from birth and as we grow; the knowledge that develops from our intelligence and the actions that result from our strength; all these enable us to develop as a country; as the Rwandan society.
I am trying to give you the background to our development as a society; the essence of our life as a society.
You are born in good health; you grow up well; then you are given education. From your health, you move to education. Education offers you capabilities that are dependent upon your intelligence; the intelligence you were born with.
In order for us to acquire a fulfilling life, we use our acquired education and wellbeing to attain progress and a good standard of living. The economy of the country and the standard of living of its nationals are based on how people use their education and their capabilities. There are people and there is a country. Without a strong foundation as a base, whatever we try to build will crumble. When you build a house without starting with its foundation, it cannot withstand any wind, leave alone an earthquake, for instance.
Whatever we are building, we want it to have a strong foundation. That foundation is you; the youth.
Here in Rwanda we have an example that can be a source of valuable lessons. In our history, we have ever built without a strong foundation and everything fell asunder. There is a time Rwandans got bad bringing-up from their childhood. This was when a Rwandan youth was taught that a friend, a neighbor, a fellow student on the next seat, should not be talked to, should not be valued as a human being but rather should be considered an enemy. The result was total destruction of Rwanda as a nation, as we witnessed in 1994.
That was bound to be the result of the miseducation imparted on Rwandans. The miseducation put Rwanda on a collision course with itself, as it were. With such miseduction, the youth could only destroy, not build. Instead of seeking tools with which to innovatively build, the youth picked crude implements of destruction like machetes to destroy.
Instead of picking tools like a pen to acquire knowledge of subjects like Science, Mathematics and others, subjects that would enable them to develop, the youth picked machetes to hack to death their classmates, neighbors and others from whom they would otherwise gain. Clearly, there was lack of cultural initiation. The value of leading a dignified life was not instilled into the youth. Nor was the importance of recognising self-worth and according others their due respect and worth.
Therefore, we must not identify with that history. What you have been involved in is to understand the correct values that we want to identify with. That is what you have been here for: to listen; to understand; to imbibe the correct values.
Of course, it is important to know that there are people who are not ready to understand this. They think you have been coerced into attending these awareness courses. In some homes, it is said that you are being starved, when in fact Ku Rugerero you feed better than in those homes.
Ku Rugerero you are getting more than the food you get at home. Here you do not only feed the stomach but the head, too. You are fertilizing your intelligence and that is what marks everything we do. Land that lacks fertility sees no harvest.
It is the same with children and the youth who are not given proper bringing-up. You can tell a person who has had proper bringing-up by their rounded-up conduct. In contrast, when a person thinks of cutting another with a machete, even when they are friends or neighbors, such a person lacks something. It means their head, their thinking, their bringing-up, their everything has never been fertilized and they are bound to exhibit brutal conduct.
That is what makes it imperative to you, the youth, to exhibit exemplary up-bringing as our future. You will be in charge of Rwanda of the future and you are already taking charge. Without giving you that proper up-bringing, we will be sowing on a rock; we will be brewing what we have witnessed in our history. We cannot accept that; such history we have left behind us.
What we want for you as our youth, therefore, is a foundation on which to base whatever builds our country and its citizenry. That is what Itorero like this is all about. Whatever else it involves, if it pleases you or not, try to enjoy or bear with it. What matters will be the lessons you can get from here, if you are determined to learn something positive, to get a good foundation from it. What makes you a positive person, who will build a positive country, is what matters.
To achieve a positive character demands discipline. Discipline gives you direction, when you know your targeted goal. It enables you to bear the hardships that may be in your way or to find solutions to those hardships. Personal discipline leads to societal discipline and together they earn respect. Rwanda enjoys the respect of others because of the conduct of Rwandans.
In our shameful history, a Rwandan was viewed as a killer to be shunned. Rwandans, seen as people without mercy for their own, were considered to be even more merciless to others. If they could kill innocent babies, their own children, their own people, were they capable of mercy to an outsider? A people capable of Genocide that was the brand that we had forged for ourselves. We came to that low point because of lack of good bringing-up in our youth; because of bad politics that we assimilated.
Today, we are building a future that has drawn lessons from that history. Starting with you, the youth, we want a Rwandan whom, when seen, will be called a person of dignity; a disciplined person; a person who conducts himself/herself with honor and is building a positive Rwanda. We will be people who ask what needs to be asked; who reject what brings dishonor to humanity; who assert their self-worth and demand respect, as they give it. We want to be dignified Rwandans.
When we encounter difficulties, we seek ways of dealing with them, on our own. We are the kind of people who are not content to be second tier; we seek the best of everything, as others enjoy them. We ask the hard questions: “If others are living well, why not us?” There are no categories of people who were created to enjoy better life and others who were not. No man created another; we were all created and created equal.
That’s why no outsider can tell us what to do or how to conduct ourselves. It has ever happened in our history but we should not have accepted it. Our youth must develop in the knowledge that no human being created them. All of us found ourselves on this earth and must know how to harness its resources. There is no superior continent that is supposed to determine the destiny of others.
In fact, the people who try to determine our destiny trace their origin here in Africa! Those who say they are white used to be blacker than we are, so black that they appeared blue. But that deep color kept fading as they continued their journey and that is scientific truth; it is not a joke. They sprang from us and yet want to pose as our creators
However, when you do not assert your dignity, they determine your life; they give you their leftovers. They eat the cream of their food when it’s still warm and give you what’s cold and left over! You understand: when you do not assert your self-worth, you will be grateful for those leftovers and even applaud in appreciation, in the process! Why should anybody be grateful for an offer of leftovers and even pump their chest and boast about it? Our youth, our future Rwanda, isn’t that taboo?
To reject such conduct as taboo, you must know what it costs to feed yourself. To dissociate yourself with the taboo, you must be ready to work, to sweat. That is the cost. Nobody can send you that dissociation with taboo through the post; it is not manna from heaven.
To get crops, you must go to the field and till the land; you cannot sit and watch the field and thus harvet crops. You cannot go to class and simply enjoy your chair without studying and pass your examinations. When you want freebies, you go to those without any dignity. When you want things you don’t toil for, to go in class and only sleep; swagger to class in trousers hanging bellow the hips; you will only beg, you will never pass exams. When many people ignore hard work and opt for leisure, their country also takes that route. The country goes astray; it loses direction. That happened to Rwanda in 1994.
If you want dignity, you must toil for it; you must be disciplined. To earn respect, you must strive for it; you must sacrifice. The life of hard work, that’s what we wish for you.
We want to erase the blights of history and become a dignified country. We want to be a country that builds its people, from childhood, so that they also serve it and make it proud in the family of respectable countries. When we talk about development, about a better standard of living and others, we are talking about all-round growth. We are building a new society. We are building a new society from one that had been completely shattered.
For many years, the social fabric had disappeared. First, we needed to build a Rwandan who was a normal human being. A new Rwandan who could think on his own; who was proud of himself; who believed that being Rwandan is not a curse but an honor. This is what you, as the youth, should internalize. A positive future for Rwanda will depend on you. We need that trust from you just as we give it to you. Our duty is to build that trust that you must have in our country.
We as your elders also expect that when we give you this foundation, you will make it even stronger. It’s like in business. To start a business, first you get capital, which necessarily you must multiply. If your capital is one million, for example, you must make sure it grows to fifty, a hundred million and so on. The capital is a seed that must germinate and grow to produce crops. So, our duty is to give you the seed; yours is to make sure it grows and produces crops. There are no short-cuts. And if there are, the achievements from them will not be sustainable.
That’s the up-bringing that we wish to impart on you for a future Rwanda, a proud Rwanda. We don’t want a Rwanda that is ashamed of itself, which you will be ashamed to be associated with. Have any people pledged to build such a country? As the youth of Rwanda, what are you lacking that youths of other countries have, that you should build a country that is ashamed of itself? God gave you everything that He gave to others and so there is no reason for you to build a country that has a deficit. You cannot accept that, can you?
This is the good thing about this Rugerero. It challenges your thought; it gives you a chance to exchange views; to seek answers that you will become part of. You feel challenged to the tasks that others have accomplished. Once you internalize your capabilities, you are able to seek solutions to problems and accomplish targeted results. When you go to class confident that you are as intelligent as the next student, that you want to accomplish a task, you are bound to succeed. But when you feel you are lacking in intelligence, that you are incapable of achieving well-being, you are bound to fail.
It is the same with countries. In Rwanda we are confident of our self-worth; that we can achieve a good standard of living as other countries. But we must work hard, and if we do, nothing can stand in our way. Especially you, since you are not burdened by baggage of a bad history like us, you must aim high. As for us, we are expiring but some of us are going with a bad name. 1994 stains our conscience. Since most of you are less than 20 years, you carry no such guilty conscience. Even the few of you who are older than 20 were too young to involve themselves in the shame.
You are a new breed of Rwandans. So, look forward and only let the Rwanda of our history be a lesson to learn from. Anybody who wants to lead you in the direction of the Rwanda of the past, you should challenge them not to take you back, when your determination is to march to an honorable forward. You have a strong foundation.
And so my message to you is that you are lucky. But luck comes with challenges that you must face. You must understand that those challenges have to be dealt with and that no one is going to deal with them for you. Even if you get assistance, you will bear the primary responsibility to address them. You are lucky because you have the luck to apply in building your society and your country.
You are not passing lodgers in this country; you are not guests in your country. You must build it as your country. This country is your responsibility. Even if you go to another country and get nationality there, you cannot cease to be a Munyarwanda. If you deny your being one, sooner or later your Rwandaness will boomerang to you and someone will remind you of it.
It therefore means that you are better off feeling as a Rwandan as early as possible. You are not a visiting guest in your country. First and foremost, you are Rwandan and after that you can be whatever else you want.
On that note, while thanking you for your attention, I wish you good health and good luck in building a prosperous and strong Rwanda.